Italy factory activity grows for third month in September - PMI

FILE PHOTO: A worker at the Liebherr manufacturing company, which produces gear cutting tools, wears a protective mask and gloves as he works in the factory a day after its re-opened, as Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown due to a spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Collegno, Italy, May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

ROME (Reuters) - Italian manufacturing activity expanded for a third month running in September and at roughly the same rate as the month before, a survey showed on Thursday, as the economy recovers following a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 53.2, compared with 53.1 in August and 51.9 in July, remaining above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

The reading was slightly weaker than the median forecast of 53.5 in a Reuters survey of 17 analysts.

The index slumped to a record low of 31.1 in April, reflecting the closure of most factories in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19, which hit the country in late February.

Plants were allowed to reopen in May, and the index reading has now climbed for five months running and been above 50 for the last three.

IHS Markit’s subindex for output at manufacturers slipped to 54.8 in September from 56.2 in August, which was the highest reading since February 2018.

The Italian government is forecasting a full-year economic contraction of 9% this year due to the coronavirus.

Most independent bodies, including the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, forecast a steeper gross domestic product drop for Italy of more than 10%.

Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson